Monday, June 15, 2009

PW's Starred Reviews

-- Publishers Weekly, 6/15/2009

Picture Books

All of Baby, Nose to Toes by Victoria Adler, illus. by Hiroe Nakata. Dial, $14.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3217-9

As infectious as a baby's first smile, this celebratory book will enchant any family with a newborn to love. While ostensibly exploring a baby's anatomy, Adler's sunny poem and Nakata's ebullient watercolors demonstrate not only a baby's exploratory joy but also the palpable delight a baby brings to a family. The satisfyingly predictable pattern of verse lends itself to interactive hugs and tickles. A closeup illustration of the roly-poly baby (“Baby's got eyes,/ bright little eyes”) is followed by a page divided into four illustrations (“Round as pies eyes./ Just the right size eyes./ Like an owl—wise eyes./ Peeka-peeka-boo”). The question “Who loves baby's eyes?” (later asked about nose, ears, tummy, etc.) is answered at the turn of the page (“Me, I do.”) as Nakata shows the baby interacting with different family members. A final verse and spread featuring the whole clan—parents, grandparents, brother and even the dog—provides an adulatory conclusion. Although the book is recommended for those under age two, it is especially suitable as a new-baby present for any member of a warmhearted family. Up to age 2. (June)

Fiction

Faith, Hope, and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Delacorte, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-385-73615-2

Newbery Medalist Naylor's (Shiloh) reflective, resonant novel shapes credible portraits of two Kentucky girls participating in a seventh-grade exchange program. Since her parents' house is too cramped, outspoken Ivy June lives nearby with her bighearted grandparents in aremote mountain hollow, with no indoor bathroom or phone. More reserved Catherine attends private school in Lexington, where she shares a rambling home with her family. In thoughtful, articulate journal entries interspersed with third-person chapters, the girls, who spend two weeks together with each family, share their initial expectations and subsequent impressions (“if Mammaw ever saw the stuff they put on our plates, she'd give it to a dog,” Ivy June writes about the cafeteria food). The bond between the girls strengthens when they simultaneously experience traumatic events (Ivy June's coal miner grandfather becomes trapped underground; Catherine's mother undergoes emergency heart surgery). Leaving the hollow, Catherine responds to a comment that she'll have a lot to tell when she arrives home: “To tell it's one thing.... To be here—that's something else.” Naylor's deft storytelling effortlessly transports readers to her Kentucky settings—and into two unexpectedly similar lives. Ages 9–12. (June)

The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford. Viking, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-670-01096-7

Ford's dark and stellar debut, which nicely updates many classic mystery tropes, tells the story of high school valedictorian Christopher Newell, who takes a summer job at the hospital morgue before heading to college. Naturally, he stumbles across something he shouldn't—$15,000 in cash and a dead body that the medical examiner has ruled a suicide, even though the body had been shot five times in the torso. Certain that the medical examiner and the sheriff are connected, Christopher starts to investigate alongside Tina, a sexy young reporter for the local paper. The plot covers a wide range of characters, including Christopher's ex-neighbor (and crush), Julia; her police officer older brother, Tim; the town's mayor and his daughter; and Christopher's best friend, Mike, an amateur bookie. Christopher and Tina uncover interlocking mysteries involving blackmail, corruption and murder, which span years of the town's history. Ford spins a tale that's complex but not confusing, never whitewashing some of the harsher crimes people commit. The result is a story that holds its own as a mainstream mystery as well as a teen novel. Ages 12–up. (June)

Congratulations to these authors!

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